We are living in the era of the side hustle. Whether you are saving up towards a down payment on a new home, a holiday, or (finally!) paying off your student debt – a side hustle can be a great way to top up your regular income. Starting a business while still employed might also be a kind of insurance policy in the event that you lose your job. A word of caution, however: don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can run a full business from the comfort of a 9-5 job. If you’re serious about entrepreneurship, you’ve got to commit.
Side hustles can be great. Times are tough economically and the costs of living just keep on rising, so a little extra cash here and there never goes amiss. It could be a little Etsy store selling your homemade jewellery, language tutoring or dog walking. Whatever it is, your side hustle needs to fit right in next to your regular job. Your employment contract will require you to concentrate on that job and be professional. If you’re starting a business while still employed, don’t make the mistake of being pulled in opposite directions. You could end up with nothing.
It’s quite possible that your side hustle will become so successful that you end up quitting your office job for it. However, it’s important to distinguish side hustles from a long-term plan to set up a proper, full-time business. The former can be done next to a 9-5 job, the latter can’t. When you are wondering how to go self-employed or how to set up your own business, forget the concept of the side hustle right away. If you really want to go for the freedom of self-employment, you have to fully commit.
Don’t try to have your cake and eat it
It’s fine to think about ideas for a new business, develop your product, think about financing etc. while you are still holding down a regular job. It will probably be a lot of work and a lot to juggle – especially if you have other responsibilities outside of work. But at some point, you will have to make the decision to take the plunge and turn your pet project from an idea you are playing around with into an actual business. If this is for real, this is the time when the clock starts ticking down to getting out of employment and going for it.
When you’re providing a service for customers, they expect you to be there for them when they need you. If they want an offer or are experiencing a problem with a product or trying to make a query, responsiveness is a mark of professionalism. Most likely, you’ll be facing off against a degree of competition on the market for paying customers. Those customers wield power over you, not the other way around, so if they say “jump”, you need to say “how high?” If you don’t, they will just take their custom elsewhere and your business is back to square one. If you’re unlucky, they’ll give you a bad review online and then your reputation is tarnished too.
Starting a business while still employed – go feet first
Several times in the past, I have collaborated with people who are trying desperately to balance self-employment with a full-time job and not once has it worked. Even from the perspective of a business partner, it is extremely frustrating if you need to get in touch and have to wait until the evening or the weekend to get an answer. One of the key characteristics of business owners is their ability to look at a new venture, weigh up the risks and say – screw it, let’s do it! They don’t stay on the side of the swimming pool dipping their toes in fearfully – they get their plans together and then jump right in.
Be courageous and show that you really believe in your idea. You can go back to employment if it doesn’t work out. But do your best for yourself and your customers by going feet first.